West students head back to class in neighboring district

Posted Monday, Apr. 22, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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LACY LAKEVIEW -- For the first day back in school following last week's catastrophic fertilizer plant explosion, about 800 high school and intermediate school students from West were welcomed into new classrooms this morning. Students and faculty, most wearing West's school colors of red and black, were having classes 13 miles south of West in what was a vacant Connally school district building.

Others attended classes in the current Connally High School across the street.

"Some of the teachers still haven't got back in their homes but they're here and ready to go," said West assistant Superintendent Jan Hungate.

Inside the once-vacant school building, the 14 classrooms had been painted in West school colors, the cafeteria had been stocked and each desk was equipped with binders, pens and paper.

"This building was completely empty on Friday," said Wesley Holt, a spokesman for the Connally school district. "We had to find everything from furniture to school supplies."

As buses dropped off students, hugs and handshakes were exchanged with faculty members.

"It feels like the first day of school," Hungate said. "The floors are shiny. We're ready to go."

West school district officials plan to finish the school year at Connally's facilities. By next fall, they hope to be back in West. West received a waiver from the Texas Education Agency to have abbreviated school days and teach only core classes. State-mandated STAAR testing, which is scheduled to begin Tuesday for some elementary and intermediate school students, has been postponed for the West students, Hungate said.

The classrooms were being staffed by West teachers and administrators. Hungate said 50 counselors from area school districts were on hand to help as well.

"I think it might hit some of them now that their back with their friends at school," Hungate said. Area school districts met on Friday to decide where to house West students after the West Intermediate School and West High School were damaged in Wednesday's explosion that killed 14 people and injured more than 200.

Other school districts pitched in with supplies and the Spring school district provided school buses.

Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698

Twitter: @fwhanna

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